In Islam, the biblical figure of Noah is seen as a great prophet whose function was to persuade people to turn away from polytheism (and the supposed wickedness that accompanied it), and to embrace monotheism (and the supposed righteousness that accompanied it). This is also how Abraham is viewed in the Qur’an (one who rejected the polytheism of his culture and embraced the one true God). This transition from polytheism to monotheism was also a central part of Muhammad’s mission in Mecca.
This surah describes Noah’s attempts to get his contemporaries to stop believing in their many gods, and to accept the one God. It even lists the “pagan” gods of Noah’s day: Wadd, Suwa, Yaghuth, Ya’uq, and Nasr. Because the people of Noah’s day refused to abandon their religious traditions, God destroyed them. This genocide is “justified” by this logic: even if one unbeliever survives, he is likely to spread his “false” beliefs and practices. This surah, and the biblical story of Noah, is disturbing, and raises serious questions about monotheism, religious tolerance, violence, and genocide.
|"Noah's Ark" by Edward Hicks (1846)|